Reflections on Recent Days, looking back and thinking ahead – and asking a question

In the course of Human Events, it’s A.D. 2020. That’s Anno Domini – the Year of Our Lord –  a phrase every American president, including each of the last two, used to give a dignified dating system for proclamations.

We live in a time when the divisions in politics are nearly matched by those in culture. 
My views on a wide range of issues are deeply informed by a lifetime of civic engagement and historical knowledge. I am pro-life, and instinctively pro-immigrant. 
Is that conservative or liberal? 

I favor a strong American national defense, and am a critic of repeated boondoggles in the U.S. defense budget. 
Is that conservative or liberal? 

My favorite U.S. president in modern history is Ronald Reagan, and my favorite Democratic president of the modern era is John F. Kennedy. 
Does that make me a conservative or a liberal? 

I believe that government should remain small, but supported the MAPS for Kids referenda after working with a diverse group of citizens for two years on behalf of the local Public schools foundation. And, I prefer using the traditional plural form of referendum rather than the modern invention, referendums. 
Conservative or liberal? 

Although by no means an advocate of open borders, I am instinctively on the side of immigrants, including those who are undocumented. I probably was influenced toward this position by my grandfather, Bruce Arthur McGuigan, who encountered “no Irish need apply” signs when he first arrived in Chicago almost 100 years ago. But I’ve deepened in that view, perhaps especially since the current president’s views on immigration have come to dominate his party. 
I am known as a conservative, and I’m OK with that – but does this view of immigration policy make me a liberal?

I oppose judicial activism which erodes principles of limited government, and have written often in defense of the dissenter in the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) case. 
Conservative or Liberal? 

My heroes in newspaper publishing include both William Loeb (the late publisher of the Manchester Union Leader) and Robert S. Abbot (the late publisher of The Chicago Defender). Conservative or liberal? 

I had news stories, commentaries and analyses printed in newspapers coast to coast during the 1980s (my sojourn in the nation’s capital). Reporters from the newsrooms of both The New York Times and The Washington Post came to me regularly for a perspective on important issues which was contrary to the editorial policies of those two institutions. It was an honor to play that role in the reporting of dutiful journalists.
I was never printed at either newspaper’s editorial page, although the editor of one of them promised, in direct conversation, I would be. 
I could have reacted to that in several ways, but I swore an oath to allow access and to incorporate (nearly) all views in the recurring presentation of information in subsequent jobs, including those times I have managed others. And, I have done so. 
Conservative or Liberal? 

For a blessed season, while working at a major news organization, I managed a board of editorial contributors comprised of three conservatives and three liberals. It was my idea and approved by the man I worked for (although a newcomer for a time took credit for it). Conservative or liberal? 

I worked at a major news organization for 12 years and grew to respect nearly every person in the family that ran that institution. To be clear: members of that ownership group possessed varied views on issues large and small – they were not all of one view. 
Conservative or liberal?

For more than a decade, I was the conservative among a group of scholars who monitored direct democracy in America and elsewhere. Each and every member of the group took turns serving as chairmen for the annual presentations at the American Political Science Association. We were collegial and mutually supportive. When a liberal competitor of a newsletter I ran on direct democracy went out of business, I brought him on as a reporter. Liberal or Conservative? 
I have been blessed with the friendship, over many years, of both Russell Perry, a rather conservative fellow who runs a community newspaper hereabouts and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who twice ran for president (in the 1988 campaign I worked for another candidate, but sustained the good relationship with Jackson). 
Conservative or liberal? 

I am a supporter of law, principled jurisprudence and ordered liberty — and have written about the need for a new approach to crime and punishment, especially incarceration issues, since the mid-1980s. 
Conservative or liberal? 

I evolved from a position in support of capital punishment into opposition to use of executions  slowly over a period of several years. I do not agree that capital punishment is unconstitutional, but I advocate that its use be ended for a wide range of reasons I have detailed over and over in the past half-decade. 
Conservative or liberal? 

I am a Reagan conservative dismayed at some of what passes for conservatism these days. I voted for the Libertarian candidate for president in 2016 and do not believe that was a ‘wasted’ vote. 
Conservative or Liberal? 

In this age of Facebook and other social media, I have readers who recently have “challenged” me to print their side of one issue or another. To be clear – this has come from both ends of the spectrum of politics over the decades, but more so in these recent times. Those challenges to my fairness quite often come on days when … I’ve posted or printed views from the faction with which the challenging person agrees. 

I know people are busy, just like me. I do not anticipate or expect 24/7 monitoring of my journalistic products from anyone. I do expect that conclusions about my work be based not on a single impression — there is far too much of that these days — but on the recurring, methodical results that flow from five decades of writing, editing and management. 

Far too many people decide whether or not they “like” something based on partial, incomplete or non-contextual information. Academics, journalists, judges, lawyers  – these are people who should value capturing the full picture, or as much of it as is possible, when reaching conclusions, even more than other citizens. 

I still think of myself as a Ronald Reagan conservative.  It’s become common for people to say he could no longer gain a Republican Party nomination due to his personality and style. I’ve been spending time looking back at recent history, and trying to figure what the near-past means for America’s future. Based on a review of his public pronouncements through early in his second term, I wonder if Barack Obama (at least with his 2005-2014 policy preferences) could be nominated by today’s Democratic Party. 

Does this summation, this analysis make a conservative, or a liberal? 
Maybe it just makes me an American. I have an overarching and, to me, consistent worldview. And within that framework of reference, I am: 
Free to choose. 
Issue by Issue. 
Day by Day. 

The message a lot of men like me are getting these days is it’s time to shut up and pay the bills, or better yet, get out of the way. 
Some day, the Lord will take me home. Until then, I’m sticking around. 

NOTE: A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, McGuigan is the author or editor of ten books, including ‘Crime and Punishment in Modern America.’